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Air Georgian Ltd., which carries nearly two million passengers annually as an Air Canada Express partner with a fleet of 17 Bombardier CRJ 100/200s and 14 Beechcraft 1900D turboprops, unveiled plans May 8 for a new training academy initiative on the northwest fringe of Toronto Pearson International Airport.
John Tory, the company’s vice-president for corporate development and government relations, told Skies the facility, now being designed in leased space a short distance from the company’s main operations base at the Shell Aerocentre, will focus on recruitment and hiring as well as training in a suite of classrooms.
Scheduled to open in October, it also will house human resources and other support personnel.
“We are creating a space dedicated to learning, to employee development and fostering a learning culture that’s adaptable,” he said. “The people who will be there–instructors, students and the planners–will be able to ensure that our training not only exceeds regulatory requirements but also is meeting the needs of the students and, where applicable, driving regulatory change.”
Air Georgian president and CEO Eric Edmondson said in the company’s official announcement that Air Georgian was rolling out a welcome mat to “all of our industry colleagues to collaborate on ways to improve training techniques and develop best practices for pilots, maintenance personnel, cabin crew and ground staff . . . . The academy will not only satisfy our internal training needs but it will serve as an anchor for research and development of advanced training techniques in Canadian aviation.”
Students will be drawn mainly from Air Georgian’s SOAR (sharing opportunities for advancement and reward) program, through which the company partners with other operators and flight schools across the country.
“Right now, the people we are considering students are licensed pilots who are looking to have a career at Air Georgian,” said Tory. “However, we are interviewing people at all levels, including those who are freshly licensed, and possibly helping them through our SOAR program to go and develop their careers and come back and join our flying environment.”
It’s a busy environment that encompasses some 62,000 regional flights annually through a capacity purchase agreement with Air Canada, providing service to 31 domestic and transborder destinations.
It clearly represents a significant but undisclosed investment by the company in a bid to address the widely forecast pilot shortage looming over the industry.
Suzanne Kearns, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo whose research focuses on aviation human factors and pilot training, and who also is on Air Georgian’s advisory board, highlighted that point.
“It is encouraging at a time when the global aviation industry is facing a shortage of qualified professionals, to see a company investing in a forward-thinking educational environment,” Kearns said in a statement.
Air Georgian emphasized that it is “committed to fostering an environment where regulators, unions, academics, flight attendants, maintenance engineers, and pilots can freely explore learning and teaching techniques, create new practices, collaborate with leaders in aviation, education, technology and innovation while moving our industry forward with a focus on airline safety and operations.
The company said it believes strongly that aviation in Canada is a community.
“It is our responsibility to punch above our weight in solving the many complex issues relating to industry awareness, recruitment, skills development and career advancement.”
Tory, who has logged at least 4,000 hours, mostly in Pilatus PC-12s for various operators in many countries, retired from the commercial cockpit seven years ago to focus on management, a role that essentially leaves him no time to use his air transport pilot’s licence to fly for pleasure.
So the focus going forward is to build on the record of having trained more than 6,000 pilots over the 24 years Air Georgian has been in business.
Chief operating officer Julie Mailhot said in the official announcement that nearly one of every three Air Canada pilots spent “part of their journey” at Air Georgian.
“I am excited by our investment in training not only for pilots but also for the rest of our team, and the promise it holds for the next generation of Air Georgian pilots, maintenance personnel and cabin crew,” she said.